Aged care homes are filled with stories – both those of residents, who are rich with the memories of the time before they needed care, and those of staff, who may have come to aged care from other sectors.

For many staff, their stories began in countries very different to Australia. A number have had amazing careers such as doctors, engineers or accountants before making the move to aged care. They may not have started in this field but they bring two important qualities – respect for older people and heart. These qualities have never been more important than over the past few months, as we’ve all adapted to the changes that COVID-19 has brought – and these have been significant in the aged care sector.

The role of staff working in residential care is a vital one and it takes a special type of person. Residents and care workers share a lot of time together, developing trusting and caring relationships. The moments they share can be the pure joy of assisting someone to try something new, meeting a new grandchild for the first time or seeing loved ones after the lockdown period.

But these moments can be challenging and grief-filled too, and this is where compassion is critical.

Our care workers support residents when they are unwell or when an older person is feeling frustration when their body no longer functions as it used to. A care worker is also often the person holding a resident’s hand as they take their final breaths.

Especially now, with all the negative press we’re hearing and the uncertainty in the world, we need to remember the stories of our aged-care workers – especially as many also have families in other states and countries, which may be significantly affected, whom they haven’t seen for a long time. They still continue to come to work each day, working hard to support and care for our residents.

All staff working in residential care are special people, and they make a significant and enriching contribution to the stories of our aged-care homes.

Mel Ottaway is Executive Manager, Services for Older People